Here you will find everything you need to learn Slovenian. As a language spoken by less than 3 million people from a country almost the size of New Jersey resources are not always easy to locate. I started learning Slovene a few years ago when I met my now-husband. Today I live in Slovenia and my language learning is continuous.
In this article, you will find information about Slovenian as a language, how to learn Slovenian online, how to find a Slovenian language course in Ljubljana and abroad, useful language learning books, Slovene YouTube channels, and some tips that really helped me with my learning process.
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Slovenian Language Facts
-Even though it is spoken by only 2.3 million people, in Slovenia there are 46 different dialects. Some argue it is one of the most diverse Slavic languages in the world.
-Slovene is one of the oldest written Slavic languages.
-Slovenian uses duality meaning they have specific words to describe not just one person or many people but also just two people or two things.
-Slovenian language has masculine, feminine, and neutral gendered words.
-During WWII Slovenian was prohibited from being used in public spaces in Slovenia and many Slovene books were burned.
-There are no curse words (kletvice) in Slovenian. It is typical for people to curse using Croatian or Serbian words.
Slovenian curse examples:
Je bela cesta – The road is white
Tristo kosmatih medvedov – Three hundred hairy bears
Is it Slovenian or Slovene?
I’ve already used Slovene and Slovenian above. So which is it? Either! They both mean the same thing and it is just personal preference.
Where is Slovenian spoken?
Primarily in Slovenia, a small country in central Europe surrounded by Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. It is also spoken by others in each of these countries along the borders. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million Slovenian speakers in the world.
The Slovenian alphabet (slovenska abeceda) has 25 Latin letters
a, b, c, č, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, š, t, u, v, z, ž.
How to say thank you in Slovenian
Two of the most common phrases people want to know in Slovene is how to say thank you and I love you.
Thank you = Hvala (pronounce it so it rhymes with koala)
I love you = Rad te imam (Said by men) Rada te imam (said by women) this is a very familiar love like for family, friends, or things you might love, like pizza. For romantic love with your partner “Ljubim te” is used.
Hint: the J sound in Slovene is subtle and is not pronounced like in “jam” or “justice”, imagine it more like a Y like in “young”
Below I will share some of my resources like dictionaries and translators, then language schools or courses, language learning apps, and share websites and blogs that are useful for the learning process. If I personally used a resource I will provide my honest experience with it, but because resources are so limited for Slovene I wanted to share as much as possible. Just because a method did not work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.
Dictionaries and Other Slovenian Reference Materials
I will never forget the first week of my Slovenian course when I was upset that my homework was a mess, and I asked how did anyone finish it?! I was sitting there with my English-Slovene dictionary in hand and the other students look at me like I was from another planet. They were all using a dictionary app called PONS, and wow, life-changing. This is hands down the BEST dictionary for English-Slovene and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise. I use this app religiously on my phone and computer.
*Language Learning Tip* Because this dictionary is so great you can enter a common word, for example, I searched jesti (to eat) and as you can see in the screenshot it gives me a few sentences with it in use. Because Slovenian can be so difficult with all of the cases (skloni) I found this to be a great way to find phrases and then save them on flashcards or in my notebook.
This suggestion might only work if you are in Slovenia, but I will suggest just trying your local library or university library wherever you are. Some times they are part of a larger network that can get books from other locations. Slovenian language books are really quite expensive. I recently joined my local library and they have a whole section for learning Slovenian and the librarians are more than happy to help.
Besana was a very valuable resource when I began learning Slovenian. Once on the site, you can enter a word, like the example given “hiša” (house), when you click “Pregibaj” the results will show you all of the forms of hiša for each case (sklon) for singular, dual, and plural.
eBralec’s site uses computer voices for pronunciation. It isn’t nearly as great as hearing humans speaking but if you have no way to hear the words, this is helpful when just starting off.
A really cool site that is aiming to gather recordings for all the words in the world is Forvo. There is a section for Slovene where you can hear real recordings of real locals pronouncing words. They have over 7000 words available!
Language Schools and Teachers for Learning Slovenian
Center for Slovene as a Second and Foreign Language
Also known as, Center za slovenščino kot drugi in tuji jezik, is the most well-known school in Ljubljana and almost everyone I speak to who moves here attends a course, including myself. They have different courses for various levels and hours. Do note that there is significant classwork and homework with expected attendance, BUT this course really improved my Slovene in a short period of time. Before this course, I could barely speak Slovene and afterward I able to do small tasks like ordering at a restaurant or asking for help in the store.
For more details on attending the beginner course at the Center za slovenščino read this post from Strangers in the Living Room.
When I first met my husband I wanted to learn Slovenian to surprise him (oh boy was I the one in for a surprise) I found myself Googling Slovenian courses, apps, programs, anything I could get my hands on. iTalki was one of the few sites, at the time, that offered one-on-one Skype lessons for Slovenian. The teachers are really knowledgable and helpful so I highly recommend this route. Find a teacher on italki!
Jezikovno Mesto offers a wide range of services whether you want to learn Slovenian, Italian, Czech, or more. Lessons can be done in English or a range of other languages. You can even take a short language program designed for travelers. In January 2019, I attended a conversational course here and really enjoyed the format. I think the class size is perfect, everyone’s level of Slovene seems quite close, and I never felt stupid for not knowing or understanding something. Before beginning this course I wasn’t feeling that confident about speaking beyond small sentences and now I can converse more with everyone in Slovenian.
Study in Slovenia
Study in Slovenia provides some information about where to find language schools in Slovenia.
Listen & Learn
Listen & Learn is a company that offers language lessons across the UK and Ireland. I never used them or know of anyone who has but I thought it might be good for someone who wants face-to-face lessons.
Take your flashcards to the next level by adding useful daily phrases.
Apps for Learning Slovene
Duolingo (Not Available)
I included Duolingo because it is probably the most common question for Slovenian language learners. At this moment there are no official plans for Slovene to be added to their courses. There is an ongoing thread on their site for years and it seems to be gaining traction every year so maybe one day!
I think Memrise is one of the best apps for learning Slovenian but others can argue there isn’t much competition. For some unknown reason – which I am still very annoyed about – they removed the option to select Slovenian as a language you can learn via the app so you will have to log into the website to add them. Something nice about Memrise is that there are user-submitted courses and there are a lot of them! Some are based on the same Slovenian language books you would use in a course.
50 Languages is such an underrated app that even I slept on it. I had it downloaded to my phone for months but just really didn’t like how ugly the app looked that I missed how GREAT it really is. 50 Languages is so incredibly useful. There is a phrasebook which has so many phrases and sentences broken down for certain situations and wait for it… WITH REAL AUDIO! Yes. Real people speaking these sentences, words, and phrases that you will need and you will use when speaking Slovene.
As if this wasn’t generous enough, there are vocabulary lists, games, flashcards, Google Translate right within the app, important info when traveling, links to other resources like radio stations (where available). This app really has it all and I am looking forward to adding it to my toolkit.
Another bonus is that you do have the ability to use different languages to help you learn Slovenian. It does not have to be English-Slovenian but you can choose from a wide range of languages.
*NOTE* There are ads if you use this app for free, and they can be a bit annoying. They have popups often asking you to purchase a language pack or all languages or other ads. It is only $2.99 for the Slovenian content if it bothers you.
uTalk is another app I have stumbled across that has a lot of great features for learning Slovenian. You can choose different categories such as business, holiday, living abroad, friends and family which are then broken down to even more specific categories.
Each category provides a phrase list with real recordings from native speakers (male and female) and several games to help learn or recall the new vocabulary and phrases. The other bonus is that it is easy to choose which language you want to learn from. You can learn Slovenian from German or Spanish, or basically any other language not just English.
Websites and Blogs Resources for Learning Slovene
So now you have your phone packed with language apps and dictionaries but how do you navigate the notorious grammar of Slovenian? How do you learn how locals speak? Let’s dive into it!
Anna in Slovenia
Anna in Slovenia is a blog where Anna shares tips on learning Slovene. Her articles are an absolute lifesaver, especially the ones discussing cases (skloni) and other aspects of grammar. This is because most texts for learning Slovene are without any English discussion of the grammar. This is what I found the most difficult in my process and Anna just does an awesome job, so thanks Anna!
I am still just discovering Glossika and only exploring the free options. I do like that it offers an exam at the beginning to help place you. Most language apps force you to start from the beginning. There is a lot of focus on repetition, which some might like and some not, but the sentences it offers are interesting and they have recordings with native speakers.
If you have started the process of finding Slovenian language resources then you probably have found eSlovenščina. This site is run by the same people who run the main language school in Ljubljana and has recently had a major overhaul. It functions a lot like all of those Duolingo-like apps with photos and vocabulary. It also includes listening and writing. The current lessons available are only for beginners.
iLanguages is another site I never used prior to writing this, but I really love that it has native pronunciations. This was one of the hardest things for me when I first started learning Slovenian because I couldn’t figure out how it should sound. Although overall it is limited, and the site is a bit difficult to navigate and lacks any substantial discussion on grammar, one of the more difficult parts of Slovene.
Total Slovenia News
Each week Total Slovenia News takes an article from Časoris (a newspaper aimed at children) and republishes the articles with a translation. It is a great way to access new reading material regularly.
Learn Slovenian is an online portal that you can take quizzes and challenges to learn Slovene. I have recently tested this site out and really enjoy it. It mixes activities so you have a chance to do matching, translations, and multiple-choice. Do note that absolute beginners might feel very overwhelmed with the content as it has no examples or primers.
BaltoSlav is a lot of fun! No really just head over there and play around for yourself. If you click on the menu in the top right you can select between two games and then select the languages you want to use. I ran through each exercise with English and Slovene and I was learning new things so it is a fun easy way to learn new vocabulary.
Learn Slovenian Online
I find myself on Learn Slovenian Online fairly often as I find some of the blog articles. There are some interesting ones about culture, grammar, and in general about Slovenia and Slovene. They do offer paid services for learning but I have no personal experience with it.
Similar to a lot of these other sites PolyMath contains vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. The grammar is very limited but it offers some context for adjectives, pronouns, verb tenses, etc but I saw no mention of cases.
Sloleks is another site to show you all cases and forms of a word but much more in depth than any other option out there. Thank you to Center za slovenščino for the recommendation and addition to the list!
Learn Slovene/Slovenian Language
A Facebook group dedicated to Slovenian language learners. It isn’t a very overly active group but if you have any questions people are quick to help.
Video Resources for Slovenian Language Learning
YouTube is one of my favorite resources, next to Wikipedia, for diving into a new topic. While there are not endless options, there are a lot of videos to help with learning Slovenian. Once again, because this is not a language most people are familiar with hearing, I find that using resources that include pronunciation is incredibly helpful. *Remember to search for both Slovenian and Slovene as there are different results for either*
Learn Slovene with Sandra – Sandra is a lovely girl that I have become friends with in Slovenia. She has a great blog, which you should also check out, but she also makes Slovenian lessons on her YouTube channel. Perfect for beginners to learn pronunciations and vocabulary.
How to Become Slovene – This is a famous series that makes it rounds around Slovenian language learning communities. There are some great videos to learn a bit about Slovenia and Slovenian.
ABC Slovene – Is a new channel that has presentations on learning Slovene.
RTV Slovenia – Is the national broadcasting channel in Slovenia. If you use the link I provided it takes you to the television section. From here you can watch some shows, documentaries, or movies with Slovenian subtitles. Look for ear icon in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail. Once you have the video open click the closed caption icon and select “sl”.
Slovenian Subtitles – If you have any movies or tv shows downloaded you can use Podnapisi to find and download the Slovenian subtitle file.
Slovenian Language Learning Tips
Learning a language is very difficult. It is similar to learning anything else and requires a lot of dedication and a dash of humility. You will mess up words, say funny things, not understand someone or they won’t understand you, this is natural and part of the process. Here are some tips that help me the most when learning languages.
1. Don’t get caught up in the cases (skloni)
I see so many people attempting to learn Slovenian and they say it is too hard because they can’t remember the various endings for each case. Don’t stress about this! My most valuable tip is to learn phrases that you will use in everyday speech that are not exceptions to the rule
For example: “vonj po kavi” means the scent of coffee. The important aspect is “po kavi” kavi=kava (coffee) as you can see the ending changed from ‘a’ to ‘i’ because of ‘po‘ this is a common structure and ‘po‘ is a preposition associated with 5th sklon (mestnik). Now because I memorized this one phrase I can now quickly identify that a feminine word in the fifth case will receive this specific ending.
Another example, “brez mleka“, which means without milk. I memorized some of these pairs early on to help me with ordering in restaurants. In this example mleka=mleko and it is a neutral gender word. Brez is only used in the 2nd sklon (rodilnik) so now I have the 2nd sklon, singular, neutral committed to memory. The opposite of this is using “kava z mlekom“. In this example you are memorizing the endings for the 6th sklon (orodnik), neutral singular.
This can only work if you are actively listening to Slovene and attempting to speak it, at least. Soon you will feel if it sounds right or wrong. In the end, don’t stress over the ending. I mess them up on a daily basis and it never stops me from communicating.
2. Create Flashcards
Repetition works! I like flashcards because even the process of making them helps me study. As you might have noticed in an image earlier in this article I like to add the conjugation and a sentence for each word. This helps me practice multiple things at once. Not just vocabulary but grammar.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Yeah, I know it has been said before but it is true. 100%! Learning a language is much like learning an instrument and without practice you will not commit things to muscle memory.
4. Keep a journal
I started this technique when learning Italian. Each day I would take time to either write about my day, what I did, very simply, or things I wanted to tell people about my day. Very similar topics but two different angles to practice from. This is incredibly useful because you will then start to learn the words most relevant to you! If you go shopping you will then learn how to say where you went, what you looked at, any issues you might have had, etc. This will slowly build your vocabulary for your voice.
4. Listen to others
If you’ve ever been to another country you know what the “zone out” mode is when people begin speaking a language you don’t know. You tune it out and just wait for them to switch back. Don’t do this. Actively listen. I try to pick out words I know and try to piece things together or pick out words I don’t know and look them up. I listen to Instagram stories, some YouTube videos, and some TV shows in Slovenian. It is helpful to listen to actual conversations from everyday people that is why I suggest following Slovenian Instagrammers or YouTubers.
5. Have fun!
Whatever you do, have fun doing it. If you don’t enjoy the process you will never fully succeed. Don’t stress about messing things up or saying something funny, it happens! Find a friend who can help you study or practice and enjoy the journey!
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I hope these resources were helpful for your language learning journey. Slovenian can be very challenging for those of us coming from non-Slavic languages, but I also find it very rewarding. Learning Slovenian can open doors to other Slavic languages. On different occasions, either spoken or written, I was able to understand some Croatian, Serbian, Czech, and Russian because of learning Slovene.
If you have any additional resources you would love to share, please add them in the comments, and if you would like to read more language learning articles comment below.